At kite-themed auction, the sky was the limit

Scene & Heard

Scene & Heard

January 28, 2007|By SLOANE BROWN

"FLY YOUR KITE" WAS THE THEME FOR THE HANNAH More School's annual Gigamajig gala. Kites decorated the walls of the Grand Lodge in Hunt Valley, and were part of the event's huge silent auction. Each kite had been decorated by students of a homeroom at the school in Reisterstown, which serves those with emotional disabilities and autism.

"I've never seen an auction this big. It's cool," said Jack Marks, CEO of John Marks Advertising.

Some 300 guests perused tables of items that included jewelry, art, getaways and evenings out. An entire tent pitched outside was full of sports memorabilia.

"This is very wearable, very practical," cooed Carla Surdin, the parent of a Hannah More student and foundation board member, as she petted a sheared-beaver vest that was up for bid.

And getting those 200-plus items for the auction? A breeze, according to Tom Myers, who co-chaired the event with wife Katherine. He noted that he'd never worked on something in which everyone pitched in so eagerly and got things done so quickly. Done well, too.

"[This party] is everything I thought it would be. A fancy place, good hors d'oeuvres," said Bob Gillingham, a software manager for Northrop Grumman and a Gigamajig first-timer with wife Margaret, a health systems management professor at the University of Baltimore.

"It's beautiful," said licensed day-care provider Lynda Davenport, as she looked around. She and husband Thomas Davenport, a Baltimore County maintenance worker, were particularly looking forward to the evening's program, where they would see their son, a Hannah More student, play drums in a performance by some of the school's students.

Jerry Willse, managing partner of Barton Matheson Willse & Worthington, and his wife, Pat Mochel, said they had attended the gala for years - even though their son, Ray, had graduated from the school four years ago.

"It is like a family there. Ray still comes back and visits the kids there," said Willse.

"The longer he's been out of the school, the more we appreciate what Hannah More gave him," added Mochel.

"I think that's the reason people spend money willingly [at the auction], because this school does tremendous work with very little resources," observed Baltimore County school board member Joann Murphy, who came to the party with her husband, Joseph, chief judge of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

"It's awesome ... a great, great school," said Rob Skuderna, owner of the Grey Rock Mansion.

"It's an unsung cause," added Caryl Siems, whose husband, Bob, is a board member.

A Drink With ... Ryan Millman

A zest for city life

Pikesville native Ryan Millman, 28, heads two national companies that he founded. He was in college when he started the first, GreekYearbook, which provides photo composites to fraternities and sororities at more than 300 colleges and universities across the country. His other company, Nations Photo Lab, provides photo-finishing services for professional and amateur photographers, as well as corporations. The two companies, both based in Owings Mills, employ about 25 people full time. Millman lives in Pikesville. He is engaged to marry Joanna Friner in May.

It's pretty interesting that you started your business while in college.

I was a junior. Every night, I would toss and turn, thinking about what kind of business I could start. Digital photography was brand new. So, I went out one day and bought a digital camera. I put together a little Web site and went out to one of the little parties at the University of Arizona, took pictures and posted them online. This was seven years ago. You couldn't Google people's pictures online like you can today. It became an instant hit. The kids from Arizona were telling their friends [at colleges] around the country to go online. Within a year, I expanded the business to over 40 universities, with the ability to sell pictures. At 28, are you already tired of hearing people comment on how young you are to head up these two companies?

I knew at 21 that it was going to take me a while to get past the point of hearing, "Wow, you're the owner?" But, I've accomplished a lot through the course of time. I'm pretty comfortable with my age. I don't mind those comments anymore.

Did you miss out on a lot of typical college life?

I was loving life all the way. I would stay up all night long working, but I'd be enjoying every minute of it. You put in that hard work, and it really does pay off in the end.

What has surprised you most about being in business for yourself?

Just how involved you need to be in understanding every aspect of your business. Sales, marketing, accounting, legal. ... It's really challenging.

What do you like the least?

Definitely accounting. That's why it's good to have a good accountant.

And your favorite part?

Growing the business. Going from Point A to Point B. Developing a plan and making goals. I'm kind of a big-picture guy. I like to surround myself with detail-oriented people. I'm always looking at the future.

What do you think your employees say about you?

I'm a very easygoing guy. We have catered lunches once a month. We have cakes for everyone's birthday. We have barbecues in the summer.

Complete this sentence: He's a great boss, if only he'd ...

They'd probably say, `if only he'd keep his desk clean.' I am messy ... at home, too.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I like a lot of what many consider "chick flicks." But, as long as you mention I'm engaged, I'm OK.

What's a recent chick flick that you liked?

The Notebook. When I grew up, I was raised by my mom and my sister. My dad was off working a lot. So, we watched lots of girly movies.

What would you say are your personal strengths?

I'm very caring, down to earth, ambitious, fun loving.

And weaknesses?

[I don't pay] attention to detail.

You don't sound like you have a whole of what shrinks would call "issues."

Some of my friends say I seem to have a good-luck charm hanging around me. But, I do try to avoid baggage at all costs.

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